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Softball: Irish try to buck the Broncos in away game

Dan Murphy | Friday, March 24, 2006

Notre Dame will take a short trip up to Kalamazoo, Mich. this weekend to take on the Broncos of Western Michigan. After consecutive one-run losses to top-10 teams, the Irish will look to pick up some momentum at Fran Ebert Field.

“We really aren’t too intimidated by [Western Michigan],” freshman outfielder Alexandra Kotcheff said. “We aren’t too worried about the game – we just need to play the way we can.”

The Broncos, although not quite the caliber of team Notre Dame has been playing during the past few weeks, will certainly force the team to play at its best if the Irish want to win. Western Michigan comes into Saturday’s contests with a record of 10-5 after a pair of shutout victories over Loyola Chicago earlier this week.

The Ramblers managed only three hits against Western Michigan in the two games, thanks to pitcher Krysten Shumaker’s no-hitter in the second game. Shumaker (5-1) has been lights out all season on the mound, holding her opponents to a batting average of .133.

Tricia VanDerSilk, another Bronco starter, has also been making headlines with her MAC West Pitcher of the Week award earlier this month.

The Irish offense will have to try to find a way to produce runs against these tough pitchers. Five of the team’s 10 losses have come when held to fewer than three runs.

“You have to go into every game with confidence thinking that you will hit each pitcher hard,” said Linda Kohan, who leads Notre Dame in home runs with four. “We are going to be just fine and do well this weekend.”

The team will look to its own powerful pitching staff to combat the Broncos and hold them in check as long as possible.

Both Heather Booth and freshman Brittany Bargar were at the top of their games in the Judi Garman Classic. Booth allowed only one earned run in last week’s 4-3 loss to No. 6 Alabama.

The Irish hope that they can turn those close losses from last week into wins in the regional and conference schedule that they start this weekend by playing close to home against weaker competition.

At this point in the season, Notre Dame is only 3-8 in contests decided by one run, including 0-3 in extra innings.

“We are going to get down to business just like in any other game, and we should come away with the win,” Kohan said.

After its trip to Kalamazoo, the team will head home to open up Big East play next week at Ivy Field.